21 envoys form Peninsula Club

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21 envoys form Peninsula Club

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Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se gives a celebration speech yesterday at the launch of the Peninsula Club, an organization made up of 21 foreign envoys both to South and North Korea, which will coordinate and utilize information to “better understand” Pyongyang. [NEWSIS]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday launched the Peninsula Club, an organization made up of 21 foreign envoys to South and North Korea, to coordinate and utilize information to “better understand” Pyongyang.

The consultative group, launched at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul, is expected to serve as a networking platform that will lay the foundation for the international community’s support for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

“We are hoping that in engaging in more efficient two-way communications, we can broaden and refine our understanding on North Korea so that we may design a better constructive method of cooperation,” Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said in front of a group of diplomats at yesterday’s launching ceremony.

He stated that he hoped the forum could provide a means for the development of strategic perspectives on North Korea and the forging of “a stronger and more effective front against future challenges.”

Yun also suggested periodic meetings on this issue at multiple levels “to cover the technical details of broader policy” in regard to the North, including immediate issues as well as short to long-term concerns.

The 21 diplomatic missions comprising the group include Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Greece, Guatemala, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Mexico, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

There already exists an informal “Pyongyang Club” among resident ambassadors in Seoul with portfolios in Pyongyang that date back to 2000. The group meets sporadically a few times a year, however, “a more systematic dialogue” between the ambassadors of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry was deemed necessary, the ministry acknowledged.

After the North’s third nuclear test a year ago, which followed unprecedented military provocations and heated rhetoric, international media condemned North Korea and the diplomatic corps in Pyongyang for its threats against foreigners residing in South Korea.

The execution of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, only intensified uncertainty in North Korea, especially the way the execution was carried out.

“Following the execution of Jang Song-thaek, other countries agreed that there was a need to boost understanding of the situation in North Korea,” a foreign affairs official said.

This comes just as the Koreas last week held their first senior-level talks in years, agreeing to resume long-delayed reunions among family members separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

“The Korean Peninsula simultaneously faces a number of crises as well as small windows of opportunity,” said Yun.

He also raised the issue of the North’s pursuit of a nuclear arsenal and further economic development. “Under such circumstances, we have to reinvent how we work so that we can better cope with complicated problems facing the Korean Peninsula,” Yun added.

David Chatterson, the Canadian ambassador to Seoul, stated that the issue was not just limited to the peninsula. “We all share a common concern about North Korea and peace and stability on the peninsula,” he said.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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